The Mammo Monster

During the course of the last several weeks, I've noticed some on again, off again pain in my left breast.  It is tender to the touch and has been bothering me.  When you've worked at a cancer center and see how many women are affected by breast cancer, their ages, and the fact that many of them have NO family history of it, it opens your eyes to keep a better watch on the "girls!"

I saw my family practitioner and while she didn't find anything palpable, she suggested a mammogram to be 100% sure and to have a future baseline.  Mammograms are now only recommended to women over the age of 45 (40 if you have it in your family history), but are considered the appropriate "go-to" if you are having any type of breast issue that is out of the ordinary.

I'm not sure what kind of stories others have heard, but every story I heard about mammograms involved pain, being uncomfortable, and avoidance at all costs.  I know of many women who have never had a mammogram because they are too frightened or embarrassed to do so.  Honestly, I was terrified going into this, because of what I had heard in the past.

I wanted to recount my experience, since it was a very positive one, for my friends who are getting close to the age where this is looming ahead.

The room that I was brought to was not like an ordinary radiology room.  It felt very homey with a comfortable chair, pretty side table with wipes (you cannot wear lotion, perfume, deodorants, etc, so they have a wipe to take those items off before the procedure and another with a deodorant on it for after) and mints, along with very nice painting and decor.  The technologist was very friendly and took her time explaining exactly what would happen.  She explained how the machine worked, and that my breasts would be only compressed to what I could tolerate.  It only compresses so far, and the flatter the machine can get your breast, the better.  Women have different levels of pain tolerance and sensitivity, she explained, and said that her goal was not to hurt me, but to get the best images possible.

I was given a shawl type cape that had no sleeves and only one snap that snapped around my neck.  The opening was to the front, but I felt fairly well covered while I waited for the tech to return.

She came back in and showed me two small stickers with small metal nubs in the center of each.  These stickers would be placed over each nipple to give the radiologist an exact vantage point of how the breast was situated in the image.  This way, if there was a mass or density, he would be able to measure the distance from the nipple and in which direction.

Personally, I am not a super shy person, and had no problem whatsoever when the technologist placed the stickers and begin manipulating my breast to the right position on the glass.  I can see how this may be an issue for someone who isn't comfortable with others touching them, especially in such a private area.  The good news is the positioning is fast and easy and within seconds she was starting the compression.  The machine does not compress automatically.  She moved the plastic shield down in slow increments by hand, asking with each turn if I was ok.  When she reached the ideal compression, she went across the room to the control area, had me hold my breath, and snapped the picture.  The second the image was taken, the machine released compression and I could resume breathing.  At no point was I in severe pain, or even incredibly uncomfortable.  There was a lot of pressure, but that was the extent of it.

Not only do they take pictures of your breasts compressed horizontally, they also take a picture vertically at a 45 degree angle to get an image of the axillary area.  This was a little more uncomfortable.  Not because of the amount of compression, but because of the strange position you have to get into to get the right image.

From the moment my exam started until I was told to get dressed was less than 7 minutes.  It was painless, easy, and I felt very good about the procedure.  Before the technologist walked me out, she said that I shouldn't be surprised if I get a call to come back for additional images, because it was my first exam, they may see shadows or densities that are my normal, but the radiologist may want to examine closer.  She explained that I would get a call with results the following day, whether the results are normal or abnormal.  I'm hoping for the former.

All in all, this is a procedure that should not be feared.  I will not worry about my next one and will have no issue scheduling them yearly when the time comes!

Love, Happiness and Pet Hair!
Shannon

Comments

  1. I am hoping to hear that your results are not a big deal and all is ok!! I've never gone through a mammogram, thank you for posting this as I too have only heard horror stories.

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